Yesterday, while I was in DC rallying at Congress for ceasefire, yesterday was the first anniversary of the death, which in different Jewish languages we call a yahrzeit, a maldado, an azkara, of my beloved uncle Michael. He was a longtime member and organizer with Jewish Voice for Peace, fiercely committed to solidarity and justice for all people. I’m also thinking today of Hayim Katzman, a member of my hometown congregation who was killed last Saturday in his home in south west Israel. He died shielding a neighbor with his body and saved three lives. Hayim was an anti-occupation activist and an academic who wrote on the politics of religious Zionism and conservative radicalization, and he dedicated his dissertation to “all life forms that exist between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.” I dedicate my presence and my words today to the memories of my uncle Michael and Hayim. In my tradition, we say “may their memories be for a blessing” and to that we’ve added the contemporary adaptation “may their memories be for a revolution.”
To my Jewish brothers and sisters, my siblings, my elders, and my comrades: I know you’re scared. I know you’re grieving. I know you’re angry. I’m scared and I’m grieving and I’m angry. I know that we’ve experienced trauma and violence and displacement and genocide. I see you and I honor you and I stand with you, truly from the bottom of my heart. I know you think that the occupation of Palestine and the current violence is necessary for Jewish and Israeli safety and I know you think that these ends justify the means.
To my Jewish siblings: today we can disagree on everything else. We can disagree on our analysis of history and on root causes and on the solutions moving forward and on the right tactics and words to use and the right organizations and politicians to support. We can get back to those disagreements tomorrow but right now, in the name of life, in the name of compassion and mercy and justice, we need to call for a ceasefire. Anything else is a desecration of the memories of those we’ve lost and to our ancestors and to our Jewish traditions. Bombing Gaza, bombing civilians as they flee for their lives won’t bring back our dead, and depriving people of food and water and medicine and electricity won’t release the hostages.
To my Palestinian brothers and sisters, my siblings, my elders, and my comrades: I know you’re scared. I know you’re grieving. I know you’re angry and you should be. I’m scared and I’m grieving and I’m angry. I know that you’ve experienced trauma and violence and displacement and now genocide as well. I see you and I honor you and I stand with you, truly from the bottom of my heart.
And so with everything I can muster, in the name of life, in the name of compassion and mercy and justice, I call for a ceasefire. I call for the release of hostages. I call on Congress and on President Biden to join the call for a ceasefire and to not fuel and exacerbate the violence by sending more weapons and money to Israel.